Dr. Stephen Hamilton, an internationally-known organist, returns to St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Abingdon, Virginia, Tuesday, May 8, to present a concert honoring his deceased musician friend, Frances Eller.
Eller established the organ program at Virginia Intermont College in Bristol after World War II and taught there until her retirement in 1972. During this time, she also was an active organist in the area and a major benefactor of the college.
Hamilton succeeded Eller at V.I. in 1972 and headed its well-known organ education program until 1986, when he left to become minister of music at the historic Church of the Holy Trinity in New York City.
During his time at V.I., Hamilton and Eller established a friendship that lasted for many years and both played roles in St. Thomasâ€™ obtaining its first pipe organ in 1980.
Eller led an effort to obtain funds for and commission the building of a new organ for the parish. It was crafted by a then-young organ builder in Jefferson City, Tennessee, Randall Dyer and Hamilton played the dedicatory concert.
For the upcoming concert, Hamilton asked St. Thomasâ€™ long-time music director, SchÃ©ry Collins, to join him in performing â€œThree Movements for Organ and Fluteâ€ by French organist and composer Jehan Alain. Collins was principal flutist of the Symphony of the Mountains and its predecessor, the Kingsport Symphony Orchestra, for more than 50 years.
Hamilton is retired from Church of the Holy Trinity, but remains an active performer in the United States and Europe. In recent years, he has played in noted venues including Notre Dame Cathedral and Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, St. Paulâ€™s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in London and Merton College of Oxford University.
The St. Thomas concert begins at 7 p.m. The public is invited. There is no admission charge, but donations for the churchâ€™s music fund are accepted. A reception follows the concert in the Parish Hall.